Margaret Atwood says Trump era 'feels like 1930s'

AFP , Sunday 15 Oct 2017

Atwood was in Frankfurt to receive the German book trade's annual "Peace Prize" for her prescient body of work

Margaret Atwood
Canadian author Margaret Atwood attends a press conference on October 14, 2017 at the Frankfurt Book Fair in Frankfurt (Photo: AFP)

Award-winning novelist Margaret Atwood on Saturday said Donald Trump's America reminded her of Europe in the 1930s, and warned that the world was "at a moment of change and disruption".

"I think it's a moment of turmoil everywhere," the 77-year-old author said at the Frankfurt book fair.

"This feels like the 1930s," she told a press conference, referring to the rise of populist leaders and fascism that ultimately led to World War II.

"And what's surprising to many people in Europe is that this is also happening in the United States" which was long seen as "a beacon of democracy", Atwood added.

George Orwell's "1984" and her own 1985 book "The Handmaid's Tale", about a totalitarian regime where fertile women live in sexual servitude, were resonating right now because those worlds no longer seemed so far-fetched.

"People suddenly feel that it's a possible reality for them," said Atwood, a prolific Canadian author and poet famed for her cautionary tales.

"The Handmaid's Tale" is now a major television show, and the story's trademark red cloaks and white bonnets have been donned as symbols of protest at US demonstrations against threats to women's healthcare under Trump.

"There's a widespread feeling of dissatisfaction and resistance, but no leading figure has appeared yet," Atwood said.

The US Republican party is "in disarray", she said, while the Democrats had yet to formulate a response.

"One wonders what the Democrats are going to come up with because so far... 'hello, where are you?'" she said.

Asked what she would say to Trump, Atwood jokingly replied: "Could you get that Twitter account away from him, please?"

But she also praised the power of social media in giving a voice to the voiceless, as highlighted in the sexual assault scandal surrounding Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

"He had nothing to do with our show," she said, before adding that the exploitation of young women by powerful men has been going on "for really quite a long time".

But the recent downfalls of some of these men showed that things were changing.

"I think there have been a number of cases involving large powerful men with lawyers in which, partly due to social media, it has become possible for people to speak about it publically in a way they would not have been able to do once upon a time."

"It all comes down to the question: who is a person? The only reasonable answer to that has to be: everyone is a person," she said.

"And they should not be treated the way Harvey Weinstein was treating people."

Atwood was in Frankfurt to receive the German book trade's annual "Peace Prize" for her prescient body of work, due to be awarded on Sunday.

Regularly tipped for the Nobel Prize for Literature, Atwood was asked whether she was disappointed when the accolade went to British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro last week.

"I am very used to not winning the Nobel prize. So it's really not a concern for me," she quipped.

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